RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Culture

When I was Your Age: The Real Version

When I was Your Age: The Real Version

Here’s a post that’s been popping up on Facebook a lot from my Buffalo people:

“I grew up on (random street name) in Buffalo, NY during the 80’s and 90’s, during a time when everyone treated each other like family. We went outside to play, got dirty, and we didn’t eat fast food, well maybe McDonald’s but not very often. We ate bologna and salami and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cooked food, and got ice cream from the ice cream truck. We ate penny candy, yes I said “penny,” because that’s how much it cost back then. We played Mother May I, 1 2 3, Red Light Green Light, Hide and Seek, Truth or Dare, Monkey in the Middle, Tag, Dodgeball, softball, basketball, baseball, kickball, football, rode bikes, and raced against each other in the street. We cried if we couldn’t go outside and play. There was no bottled water, we drank from the tap. We watched cartoons on Saturday morning, we walked to the corner store, and we rode our bikes for hours without a cell phone. We weren’t AFRAID OF ANYTHING. If someone had a fight, that’s what it was – a fist fight. Kids didn’t have guns when I grew up. The street lights were our curfew. School was mandatory and we watched our mouths around our elders because ALL of our neighbors were our parents so we knew if we didn’t we were in big trouble when we got home.

Re-post if you’re glad that you came from a close-knit community and will never forget where you came from!”

This is idyllic-binder bullshit. All of it. While this is the prevailing oral myth passed from generation to generation about Buffalo these days, I have a unique hatred for this version of it because it seems to be snaring people who I thought wouldn’t become so Buffalo-ized. In other words, I see it being posted by people whom I’ve long believed know better.

This post is the ultimate embodiment of Buffalo’s refusal to change its guard. It drives me nuts, and not just because its platitudes revolve around a generic kidsville where every Boomer claims to have been raised.

Let’s break this ridiculous sucker down. First, you’ll notice that there’s nothing unique about it. It’s the life of kids from 80’s sitcoms, which does sum up the city in its desire to stay inside its fake little bubble. A post like this says to the rest of the world, “we never moved on.” It says that yes, someone saying it has seen that the planet left the past behind, but their little corner of the world has refused to acknowledge it.

The first delusion of this post is right in the first sentence: The whole neighborhood treated each other like family. It’s true that Buffalo has some close-bonded neighborhoods, but in this case, the bonds are all a bit TOO close. If you’re thinking of moving in with the hopes of integrating yourself into the action straight off, you’re going to have your work cut out for you. What this post doesn’t say anything about is the way they welcomed the newcomers with baked gifts. That’s because that doesn’t happen. You’re going to be welcomed by a lot of closed doors and binds, and that’s in the best-case scenario. There’s a good chance the people in your new neighborhood are never going to come around, and if you’re a minority moving into a white neighborhood, just forget it. My close-knit neighborhood where everyone treated each other like family chased every minority that tried to move in right back out in a matter of months.

For next couple of sentences, the food comes up, and it’s purely kiddie food culture. You can tell because processed junk gets brought up in a nostalgic way. Now, anyone who really missed processed meat sandwiches can go out, buy the ingredients from the grocery store, and make them at home, but I’m guessing they don’t. That’s because we know it’s bad for people. That line about not eating fast food just isn’t true – fast food is one of the primary dietary staples of the city. The people of my generation in Buffalo ate it all the fucking time. They just don’t recognize anything outside of national chains as fast food, which is why all the pizza and chicken wings they chowed down aren’t being counted. I’ll give them this: At least they’re eating local fast food. But as for the platitude about not eating fast food, don’t believe a word of it. And no, nobody cooked food, either, unless microwaving frozen and boxed dinners from the grocery store suddenly counts as “cooking food.” Ice cream from the ice cream trucks was an occasional treat, but most people got theirs from grocery stores as well. And anyone who repeats that penny candy bullshit to you just needs to be smacked in their fucking face as hard as possible. Penny candy has never existed in our lifetimes, so anyone feeding you that line better be a grandparent.

Now we come to the point of the activities, which is just funny to me now. People claim they used to do these things, which got them outside for fresh air and exercise. Now the question is, what’s stopping them now? There are organized leagues dedicated to most, if not all, of those games mentioned. It’s not that someone who posted that can’t go back out and do those things. It’s that they won’t. I chalk this one up to being a bad side effect of what happens when people develop too much of an obsession with the interests and habits of “proper” adults, and that phrase holds almost no meaning in Buffalo. Proper adults drink beer and watch TV. And no one cried about not getting to go outside and play. They played video games, because this was the time the age of video games was starting.

Or they played with the toys that their favorite Saturday morning cartoons were created to sell. I hate to come down so hard on this part, because I have the same fondness for those same cartoons as everyone else in my generation. So after all my anti-corporate, anti-studio ranting, it was grounding to learn that toy companies were busy back then making cartoons to sell already-existent toy lines, and not the other way around.

The original author of this post seems to have a thing for kids bicycling. He makes two references to it. This is another thing that’s funny to me, because if the author is native to Buffalo, they probably have a cold heart toward cyclists. I’ve already spent a lot of words in this blog writing about Buffalo’s attitude toward cyclists, so the only thing to think about now is how many people who were brainless enough to repeat this post have assaulted cyclists after becoming adults. Cyclists are like door-to-door salespeople in that the older they are, the less people are eager to see them. Little kids? Great! Teenagers? Just don’t pull anything outrageous, you little shit. Adults? You need to be killed. I can only hope repeat posters are cyclists themselves, because if they’re not, there’s a good chance they hate cyclists and have verbally – and maybe physically – assaulted a cyclist at some point, since bicycle hate is a prevailing ethos in Buffalo.

My friends and I were never afraid of anything either, and here are some things we did: One friend broke another’s arm; we climbed on top of a moldy and old tool shed that was older than our parents but still being used; climbed down to the bottom of a bridge; climbed back up that same bridge using a vertical pillar with lots of sharp rocks below; ran through mazes of tall sidewalk grass while onlookers threw rocks; brought down a phone line; ran screaming across backyards which weren’t ours; fell off low-hanging tree branches; and chased cars which were driving down the street. No, we weren’t afraid of much, even if we could be killed. Fistfights were part of playtime, and bullying was seen as a toughen-up tactic rather than a mental scar. (I had a neighbor who swore by the advice that a bully would leave me alone if I ignored them. This has never been true in any time or space. I’m pretty sure said neighbor hasn’t been very far outside of Western New York.) If someone had a REAL problem with someone else, the knives came out. The Police were called in at school at least five times.

School? Mandatory? You don’t say! Well, I guess it would have to be. Where else could a teenager find a teacher to try to beat up? Yes, this happened at my school; in fact it was so commonplace that, after one particular assault which was covered on the news, the big deal in school was that the footage showed by the station was of a student/teacher attack that happened at a different school. It amazes me that anyone could write with any pride about how school was mandated, because my schools all specialized in propaganda. Most of my schooling took place in the inner city, where City Hall didn’t care for real education. They cared that we knew just enough about the American Dream to let our corporate overlords do our thinking for us and were blatantly grooming students for 50 years in the nearest factory. Or the Military.

I’m sorry, but if all your neighbors are your parents, you’re from a creepy neighborhood. People complain about how social media invades privacy, but if you’re from a place like this, you probably never had much of it in the first place.

Naturally, here was my response to this post, altered to be realistic:

“I grew up on (street deleted) in Buffalo, NY, during the 80’s and 90’s, during a time when everyone treated each other like family unless they were outsiders, who were all suspicious intruders. We chased every minority that tried to move in off the block. We didn’t go to McDonald’s; well, maybe once a week, but we fucking gorged on fast food – pizza and wings from local joints ARE fast food. We ate bologna and salami and other kinds of unhealthy processed trash, microwaved food, and got ice cream from ice cream trucks if we were lucky. We ate penny candy – yes I said “penny,” because I’ve now confused reality with stories my grandparents told me about their childhoods. We played Mother May I, 1 2 3, Red Light Green Light, Hide and Seek, Truth or Dare, Monkey in the Middle, tag, dodgeball, softball, basketball, kickball, football, baseball, rode bikes and raced against each other in the street; healthy activities that got us fresh air and sunshine but which we now get together and deride and disparage people who do those things as adults while we sit on our asses drinking beer and watching football. If we couldn’t go outside to play, we stayed inside and played video games; hell, we did that anyway. There was bottled water, but we were too smart to buy it; we bought ice water for a nickel at local fast food places instead. We watched corporate advertising disguised as cartoons on Saturday morning. We walked to the corner store for junk and rode our bikes for hours without a cell phone but but now hate and try to kill anyone we see on a bike. We weren’t AFRAID OF ANYTHING, which is how my best friend nearly killed himself climbing a bridge on Cazenovia Creek and brought down a telephone line. If someone had a fight, someone would get stabbed. Kids didn’t have guns when I grew up. They just had knives. School was mandatory but we never worked or studied. We watched our mouths around our elders because ALL of your neighbors were fucking creeps who despised anything that was different and didn’t meet their weird obsession with “normality.”

Re-post if you’re proud that you shed your when-I-was-your-age binders and have vowed to never repeat the same lines of bullshit to any kids that grown-ups used to tell you about what things were like when they were kids!”

A Letter to the Grim Reaper

A Letter to the Grim Reaper

Dear Mr. Grim Reaper,

It’s time you and I had a little chat. We need to settle something: Among the famed and influential people you’ve taken from the world this year are David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, and now Muhammad Ali. Ali is the only one among them whose time had been seen coming for awhile. He was 74 – early old age, and a longtime sufferer of Parkinson’s Disease. But Bowie and Rickman – whom you killed within a week of each other – were both in their 60’s. Prince didn’t even get that far. None of them deserved to head off into the Grey Havens early. In fact, they were all champions of good causes who showed the world that it was okay to be different and stand out.

How the hell are you coming up with the names on your list this year, Mr. Reaper? You can’t be pulling them out of a hat – the odds of all four of those names being pulled from a hat that large are astronomical. They have to be in the billions. You need to start picking off some worse people to balance this out. Here is a list of names I’m practically leading the cheers to see go down:

Gwyneth Paltrow
Okay, I can admit that it’s not her fault that she’s the daughter of actress Blythe Danner and movie producer Bruce Paltrow. But damn if she doesn’t know how to ride the Daddy’s rich little girl routine to its most extreme end. She earned my sympathy at one point by performing an experiment to see if she could eat healthy for a week with the kind of money that poor people make. Turned out the answer was no – no shit, tell us something we don’t know – but her behavior both before and after that makes me wonder if she wasn’t trying to whip up some exotic French three-course meal during that experiment. For god’s sake, she just made news for recommending a solid gold dildo which cost more than most peoples’ cars – and if they live in certain parts of the Rust Belt, possibly even their houses. She puts out a list of Christmas gifts every year which are beyond expensive. If you’re trying to live like her, you’re going to be torn every month between buying her favored jumper or keeping your roof over your head. I’m halfway convinced Paltrow is a distant relative of the Solomon family from Third Rock from the Sun.

Tom Brady
You know, I thought there was progress being made in the eternal war against the image of the All-American Golden Boy. We were beginning to realize that good looks come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. We were starting to appreciate the incredible athleticism that goes with other sports, including more cult ones like lacrosse. We were finally realizing that being a good person who does the right thing can have nuanced circumstances. But then here came Tom Cruise Sports Edition, pretty much embodying everything Grandmas want their granddaughters to marry. Tom Brady was cast in the same mold that also created all those evil movie jocks from the 1980’s that we hate so much. That would be bad enough, but there are a couple more details which make Brady the most insufferable version of the trope: The first is that we’ll never get to see him receive his satisfying comeuppance. Even with Rex Ryan having coached two of his divisional rivals, he always seems to survive an onslaught which should have killed other quarterbacks. The other is that he has given credence to Boston sports fans, who are the worst people on Earth.

Kanye West
Kanye West gets all the credit in the world as a creative genius. Of course, that’s only because he IS a creative genius. Just ask him – he’ll be the first to tell you so. Yeah, Kanye West plays the role of one of the world’s biggest divas. He’s one of those kinds of people who gets pouty is everything doesn’t go exactly right. Furthermore, can you think of any other celebrity who would try to peddle an undershirt for $120? That’s not even getting into his well-known award show rants, where he waltzes up to the stage, takes the microphone from an award winner like he owns it, and spends ten minutes rambling on about who the real winner should have been. As you can guess, most of the time, it should have been Kanye West.

Jenny McCarthy
So, given the choice between having your kid autistic or dead, what do you do? According to the anti-vaxxers, you let them die. Jenny McCarthy was apparently once a very smart student, but I think it’s probably time she asked the University of Google for a refund. McCarthy is the face of the anti-vaxxer movement, a farce started with bad research by a doctor who was disbarred 20 years ago, has no evidence to back it up, and is arguably a belief that goes with privilege. But McCarthy’s brand of lunacy predates her involvement with the anti-vaxxers: Before latching onto that, she was an outspoken proponent of the Indigo Child movement, even running a blog that served as a meeting site for Indigo people and even more special Crystal people. In other words, she’s a person who might be better off joining Scientology.

Mel Gibson
Oh Mel, what happened? He was one of the greatest and highest-paid action heroes in the world, but I can count on my deformed hand the number of other stars who fell so hard so quickly and ruined themselves. First of all, you can’t decline to call out your Holocaust denier pop. You also have to keep your id in check by at least trying to say when if you decide to drink. Bitching about the Jews is not only going to alienate a significant chunk of your audience, it’s probably going to piss off a lot of executives in Hollywood; after all, there ARE a good number of Jews in those positions. And being a devout Catholic while cheating on your wife makes you a hypocrite. Even when trying to pull himself out of his downward spiral, Gibson just couldn’t stop his foot from leaping into his mouth. This is really more of a mercy killing plea – Mel Gibson used to be one of my favorite movie stars before all this happened. Lethal Weapon, Mad Max, Braveheart, the man made some quality pictures. It’s one thing to screw up, but Gibson has made it impossible to take his side.

Those aren’t even the only ones I can think of. They’re only the ones I feel like listing off the top of my head. We know about ubiquitous reality stars, people who are famous for being famous, and loudmouthed pundits and bigoted politicians. They’re legion, and they all deserve to be escorted from this planet too. I don’t even have to mention any of their names. See, Mr. Reaper, the planet sucks to live on enough as it is. The people you’re knocking off this year are some of the types of people who make living here more bearable.

What’s stunning is that there are so many more of the worse people – and the indifferent ones – than the good ones. Some are stupid, some are evil, right wingers are usually both. Hell, there are famous right wing pundits in the United States right now who are openly championing slavery. (Who was it that defended it by saying it was “a full-employment system?” Yeah, please go kill HIM.) Isn’t Charles Manson still alive?

I know you’re just trying to get your own job done, but your hit list this year makes you look like you’ve been taking bribes from the Angel Mafia. And I don’t want to believe you’ve been doing that. You’ve had a sterling track record over the past few years. Yes, you’ve taken the good. We all miss Nelson Mandela, but Mandela was well into his 90’s and had led a long, full, and very productive life. But you also knocked off Osama bin Laden, Fred Phelps, and Kim Jong Il.

We need to see the bad people die too. I know you’re smart enough to understand balance. If we’re not getting enough balance, certain types of people will start to see your hit list as evidence that the bad people are the ones who are right.

See you around,
Nicholas

Branding UB

Branding UB

About the time I was starting out at the University of Buffalo, the university itself decided to undergo a rebranding. Understand that the name of the University of Buffalo is nicknamed among absolutely EVERYONE because its proper name is so long it’s obscene: The State University of New York at Buffalo. It’s the flagship campus of the State University of New York system – or SUNY – a large state-funded education blanket which is comprised of 64 different colleges. And The State University of New York at Buffalo was always shortened to match its original name, the University of Buffalo, to make it easier to fit into a headline banner. Well, the university wanted more publicity, so instead of highlighting the University of Buffalo part of the name, some new guy in charge of marketing – someone who wasn’t from Buffalo, wouldn’t you know it – decided it was time to highlight the NEW YORK in the name.

It didn’t go over well.

The idea was meant to try to draw attention to UB, so while it worked, it only worked in the most perverse of ways. While there were a handful of bloggers and online writers and UB alumni who backed it because the title screamed “NEW YORK,” the populace hated it. Hated, hated, hated, Hated, HATED it. And why not? It was an idea that counted on potential UB students being failures in geography and being recruited on the belief that they were going to be spending their nights in bars down in the OTHER New York. How dumb did they think people were? Didn’t they get the impression – any at all – that some student who took the bait would eventually make his way to downtown Buffalo and wonder where the Empire State Building was?

But here’s the thing: Buffalo looks at universities and colleges in a rather obtuse way. Less than half the population there holds any sort of college degree, and the city in general is a place where intellectualism gets snuffed out. Buffalo is a traditionalist stronghold, which keeps it trapped in a bubble of its own making. As I’ve grown accustomed to pointing out, the city graduated less than half its population from high school until recently, and even now the high school graduation rate is still pretty pathetic. Those who do graduate high school aren’t always in a hurry to run screaming off to college to earn their doctorates, either. They’ll learn just enough to know the different between tomato and tomahto, walk into the first call center with a Now Hiring sign in the window, and that’s it. The rest of life is marry the high school sweetheart, drink, raise kids, and hope the Bills bring home that elusive Lombardi Trophy. My joke that ambition in Buffalo means earning a high school degree isn’t too far off the mark.

So yeah, it felt like the city’s many institutions of higher education needed to cause a shakeup. UB went about it in the most extreme way it could think of, which was to latch on to the city that no self-respecting Buffalonian can stand.

Although the people in Buffalo are always keen to jump in support of their own civic institutions, UB can come off like a slap in the face. The people in the area who haven’t attended UB are in the habit of forgetting it’s there. Its location – the South Campus is right on the city’s northern border, while the North Campus is plopped in a distant no-man’s land in Amherst – certainly plays a role there. And the university’s athletic programs aren’t exactly the University of Michigan Wolverines. Hell, they’re not even the Huskies of the University of Washington or the Northwestern University Wildcats. Although they’ve been steadily improving and getting more attention as of late, the Bulls are still a mediocre team stuck in maybe the worst conference in college sports. And even with winning records, they don’t exactly have the world going for them. What be the problem? Let’s count the ways: Their campus might as well be stuck in the middle of the desert; the stadium has a football field surrounded by a running track, which doesn’t exactly lend itself well to intimacy; the bleacher section at Wrigley Field can hold more people; their primary rivals don’t realize they’re supposed to be our rivals; they don’t have any local media coverage – the fact that they’ve been aired on national TV several ties in the last few years is a miracle that Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad all gave up trying to perform; and their nickname is one letter away from infringing on the copyright of Buffalo’s NFL team.

It’s funny how it took an advertising campaign like this to remind the people of Buffalo just how much they love the University of Buffalo after all. It didn’t seem like the people of Buffalo were giving a whole lot of mind to UB until this came along. When they did, it was sort of an offhanded bone. Maybe the kids went there, or maybe one of the football players made big news while playing in the NFL, but it all went the same way: With someone claiming they love and support this institution, but not really thinking about it until the NEW YORK was given lettering bigger than the BUFFALO. So this whole project leaves me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I want to tell the University of Buffalo, “Well done!” On the other hand, I’m hoping the person who thought of it is shipped back to wherever he came from, where naming something after New York might work better.

To think, if the people of Buffalo had been paying attention to UB in the first place, this whole charade never would have been necessary. But I guess this is the sort of thing that happens when a city ignores its potential as a higher learning destination – even the stupidest and most degrading rebranding becomes a necessity, just so it isn’t left out of the peoples’ minds.

How to Tell Buffalo Transplants from Buffalo Natives

How to Tell Buffalo Transplants from Buffalo Natives

Transplant: Tries the wings at Anchor Bar and thinks they’re the best ever.
Native: Acknowledges that the Anchor Bar definitely invented wings, but has a personal favorite wing spot they’re ready to go to war for.

Transplant: Is interested in seeing what kinds of cultural events happen at Niagara Falls and when.
Native: Takes out-of-town relatives to Niagara Falls State Park, but otherwise avoids the city like the plague out of a perfectly justifiable fear of being stabbed.

Transplant: Remembers the Goo Goo Dolls were that one band in the 90’s that had those three or four hits and sang that weepy song from that Nicolas Cage movie no one remembers.
Native: Has drank a beer with Robby Takac and/or George Tutuska somewhere on Chippewa.

Transplant: Nietzsche was a philosopher who ruminated on the death of God.
Native: Nietzsche’s is one of the most highly-regarded bars in the city, which hosts live music and comedy.

Transplant: Respects Ani DiFranco.
Native: Believes Ani DiFranco sold out when she moved to New Orleans.

Transplant: Can barely decipher the Indian names of the suburbs.
Native: Can tell the difference between Tonawanda and North Tonawanda easily.

Transplant: Is nominally aware of a sport called hockey; it’s basically ice boxing. Its greatest fighter is some guy called Getzky… Gits… Grits… Something with Grits…
Native: Frets over games even when the Buffalo Sabres aren’t involved.

Transplant: Gets a little freaked out upon waking up and seeing a foot of snow on the ground.
Native: Is only a little pissy about having to leave the house ten minutes early to brush the car off.

Transplant: Tries to become a savvy downtown navigator, but can’t make heads or tails of Main Place Mall or the Convention Center.
Native: Gave up that ridiculous idea years ago, and now just finds a place to park and hoofs it everywhere.

Transplant: Wonders if all the Dunkin’ Donuts went into hiding or just turned into Tim Horton’s.
Native: Timmy’s is fine, but the best donuts come from Paula’s.

Transplant: Buys a snowsuit.
Native: Snowsuits are just added bulk.

Transplant: Thinks the local college football stadium is a pain in the ass to reach.
Native: Struggles to remember there’s a Division I college football team in the area.

Transplant: Thinks it’s a good sign they shot part of the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie here.
Native: Has encyclopedic knowledge of all the movies shot in Buffalo, and seethes over the one thing almost all of them have in common: They rarely take place in Buffalo.

Transplant: Thinks New York City should be held up as a model city.
Native: Will kill anyone who thinks that and be commended for performing a public service.

Transplant: Sees beef on weck as a rip-off of beef sandwiches from Arby’s.
Native: Will kill people for thinking that too, and make it exponentially more painful.

Transplant: Visit’s Wegman’s for the first time and is impressed.
Native: Goes out of state and never finds a decent place to buy food.

Transplant: Thinks sponge candy is something you wash with in the shower.
Native: Knows an Easter or Halloween going by without sponge candy is a ruthless abomination of everything right and just in the world.

Health, Models, and the Fashion Media

Health, Models, and the Fashion Media

I can’t say I ever understood the appeal of those waif-thin models that kept popping up everywhere back in the 90’s. Their figures were terrible – they all looked like they would soon be whisked away in the next light breeze, plus their apparent attitudes seemed to run the gamut from neutral to indifferent. Occasionally, they might come across as surly. Sure, there was Tyra Banks, but she was an exception; the general rule of 90’s models was that if you threw them off the top of the Sears Tower, they should be able to float down, unharmed.

When Adrianna Lima first broke through in the mid-millennium, I got the sense a big shift in the modeling landscape was about to occur. Then Kate Upton appeared, and all bets were off. It would be a great lie if I wrote that Upton’s radiating sex appeal had nothing to do with her impressive chest, especially considering how often fashion designers put her in clothes which serve to accentuate it. (Let’s call this the Tomb Raider approach.) There is, however, more to Upton’s sex appeal than merely her breasts. I think the ultimate appeal of Kate Upton is that she appears to be healthy and happy working in an industry which, until recently, demanded that no one in it – man or woman – be either. Far from being the bitchy cheerleader or vapid, humorless icebox, Upton always seems prepared with a smile and a witty quip, signs of her being warm, personable, and approachable. Her body type is also different from the 90’s prototype: Although we can’t trick ourselves into believing the average Jane will ever have a body resembling Upton’s, Upton herself doesn’t seem to show any of the typical signs of starvation or deprivation that were once everywhere in the industry. Her ribs aren’t about to claw their way out of her thorax, and her skin doesn’t seem to have any abrasions or tightness which would signify her sharing of one mini-carrot a day with three other models as a diet. In short, Kate Upton takes care of herself.

The fashion media – and hell, we can expand that to include the entire high fashion industry itself – can’t seem to bring itself to figure this out. Both the industry and the media dedicated to covering it have decided that models need to look a certain way, right down to facial expressions during runway shows. Upton is, for some odd reason, assailed by fashion commentators for being too fat. Other criticisms include that she has an average face and that her waist is too large for a true hourglass figure. Upton also has a habit of speaking candidly instead of letting herself being reduced to a smiling, nodding corporate token in her interviews.

Anyone who read my last extinct list knows how I feel about the fashion media, and its appalling treatment and inability to make heads or tails of Kate Upton is a major reason why. The fashion media is the one wing of the news which is even more useless than Fox News. Everyone who covers high-end fashion seems to be even more out of touch with the public than the United States Congress. That, though, could just be the nature of the business. After all, this is a group of so-called journalists who spend all their time watching runway shows which feature clothes with space hooker designs which never seem to find their way to the masses, worn by size -3 models which, because the big-name designers have decided -3 models are the standard-bearers of beauty, the journalists have decided the designers know what they’re talking about and therefore follow suit by being disgusted by a size -2 anorexic.

Now the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue this year is featuring two models who are being constantly referred to as plus-size models. Although current Jeter girl toy Hannah Davis is featured on the cover, the newest Swimsuit Issue is being noted for the presence of Ashley Graham and Robyn Lawley. Lawley is a size 12 and Graham flaunts her size 14 figure. Both of them are drop-dead gorgeous… And both of them are being attacked in the fashion media for having bodies which, by most accounts, can be considered both attainable and normal. Hell, Lawley is deflecting shots these days because there’s a whole other crowd of people who are in an uproar that anyone would ever consider her plus-size. Graham – whose picture I’ve placed in the inset – appears to be a bit bigger than average, but she’s definitely not out of shape.

Now comes the money question: What’s the big deal? Lawley and Graham are a hell of a lot closer to what the girl next door actually looks like. Is the problem with them that Mr. Klein can’t make a bigger version of an outfit which is a dress on one leg and a pant leg on the other that is only going to be seen in show once before the plebes all forget about it? Because if that’s the problem, the uber-rich designers are probably in the wrong line of work.

2015 is shaping up to be one of the most annoying, palm/forehead smacking, bemusement-sighing years on record – it’s only February, and yet the year has already seen some of the most inane controversies imaginable. And this might be the most absurd: Two otherwise gorgeous and healthy women who happen to have very normal body types are in a magazine full of near-naked women. The outrage is being fueled entirely by a wing of the media which is apparently offended by the fact that Ashley Graham and Robyn Lawley both lack visible skeletal structures. That’s the only impetus I can really decipher behind all this animosity.

Suddenly, the days when Barbie was catching flack for her unrealistic body type don’t seem so far gone. We know more about healthy lifestyles then ever before, and there’s a growing section of the populace which is altering its lifestyle in order to be healthy. And yet, here are the vapid chimps in the fashion media, desiring and promoting a body type which little girls were literally starving themselves all throughout the 90’s in order to attain, even as most of the men called the Flockhart body unattractive. Thanks to a band of writers who apparently can’t make their livings writing things that are legit, the planet is now taking a giant step backwards in regards to healthy lifestyles. They’ve gotten so obsessive about unhealthy, impossible thinness that we’re considering normal-sized women fat.

So, how many of these commentators do you think adhere to the standard of beauty they’re busy trying to maintain themselves? My guess is that it’s not too many of them.

The 2014 Christmas Gift Guide for Your One Percenter Friends

The 2014 Christmas Gift Guide for Your One Percenter Friends

It’s a question we have to ask ourselves every year: What Christmas gift should we get that one person in our lives who can afford to buy anything? In our materialist frenzy, many of us start to forget that One Percenters are every bit as human as you or me, and that makes it dangerously easy to forget to include them on our Christmas card lists. How do you think they would feel about that? Of course, that leaves the question of what the perfect present to get your One Percenter friend would be. Above all, it should be thoughtful – and by thoughtful, that means you should have put some thought into the kinds of things the uber-rich could buy themselves to live the uber-rich lifestyle. That’s why I’m here! So, without further ado, here’s a list of awesome gifts for the One Percenter in your life. After all, for you, $500,000 is merely the cost of your house, but for your One Percent friend, it could be the tenth luxury sports car for his nine-car garage!

Techinvasion 24 Karat Gold iPhone Passive Horn Amplifier
This is basically a pure gold version of one of those vinyl record amplifiers cartoon characters are always slamming down over each others’ heads. Therefore, it has a certain retro charm, at least for those who know what vinyl records are. Instead of it being attached to a 24 karat gold record player, though, this one stands on its elbow, and the iphone is shoved into the top to amplify your music and possibly your favorite movies and TV shows, which you’ll presumably be watching through a corresponding telescope. Those of us who play RPGs know that these things have to be fairly awesome by default because we’re used to seeing gold get used to make a lot of other unlikely items in our favorite video games. Right? No RPG characters ever complain about how useless their gold weapons and armor are. If not, you know the $1041 price tag probably justifies the quality of this thing. As an added bonus, if one of your friends is a soft phone talker, you won’t be forced to endure the work of pressing the speakerphone and volume buttons anymore!

Van Cleef and Arpel’s Poetic Wish Watches
A nice pair of his and her watches which might be the prettiest watches I’ve ever seen in my life. Hand-made, hand-painted with real potraits, and you can never go wrong with a nice timepiece because people rarely join the One Percent without being real sticklers about punctuality. The company’s watch harvest manager calls it a classic friendship story: Boy meets girl, romance gets sparked, fate keeps them apart, both left longing. It’s a basic plot to a soap opera romance, but since this one has characters who are stuck in time so you can’t have your heart ripped out when the bitch stepmother poisons the girl to a dramatic terror music track, it’s worth the $1,090,000 price tag.

Bulleit Woody Tailgate Trailer
This is a trailer from interior designer Brad Ford which is sort of a mini-bar you can tow behind your car. It other words, it’s a natural device you can use for tailgating, making it perfect in case your One Percent friend is a sports fan. You know what kind of lives the One Percenters lead: Always locked up in the trapping of the high life, your sports fan One Percenter just feels the urge to go out and join his fellow fans for a day of grilling and barbeque. Just imagine what kind of hero your friend would be to the other fans, pulling up in his Ferrari, pulling the $150,000 Woody Tailgate Trailer equipped with the finest scotch available, along with a selection of excellent wines from Italy and France. Then he’ll pull out the less-expensive caviar, which the rest of the fans will probably be grateful to try. I mean, your friend can’t offer them the nicest perks, right? It’s not that kind of crowd. This is the 300-level seat crowd, after all – the cheapos who are only paying $200 per ticket. Which is the price your friend decided to just set and not go any lower, since your friend is also the team owner.

Prada Skis
You know skiing hasn’t been the popular thing for about two decades. What’s big nowadays is snowboarding, but snowboarding seems so commoner; so 99 Percent. When your friend goes skiing, s/he goes skiing, wearing a pair of elegant ski blades on feet. And there’s not a whole lot which will be more elegant than this $500 pair of skis, developed when ski maker Volant teamed up with popular fashion designer Prada. They’re guaranteed to always look awesome, even after your friend slams into a tree.

Pennwick F5 Sports Car Custom Golf Cart
Its been said that golf is nothing but a nice long walk that’s been spoiled. Of course, that makes it the highest and noblest of all participation sports for your One Percent friend. But there’s one thing that spoils golf itself – those weird little carts they drive around on the greens in order to catch up to their golf balls. They look like the cheap cousin of hockey’s Zamboni machines. And hockey is so, well, pedestrian. But those carts are also necessary, so your friend has to suck it up and sit in… Those! Well, Pennwick is here to act as a salvation to your friend. No, your friend probably isn’t in need of another fancy Italian sports car, but life is always better with one, right? And for $20,500, now your friend can recreate the experience of driving the family Ferrari on the golf course. Golf carts never have to feel so 99 Percent again!

Fantasy Treasure Bra
Miranda Kerr debuted this baby back in 2011 at the Victoria’s Secret show in New York City. It features 142 karats worth of diamonds, and with a $2.5 million price tag, you can probably be sure none of them fall off during the course of a regular business day, so no commoners, you know, pick them up and try to sell them or something. Think of all the famous chests that have worn bras like this: Miranda Kerr, Adriana Lima, Kate Upton… Hey, your One Percent friends shouldn’t have to wear such pedestrian duds if they’re not driving pedestrian golf carts!

JetLev R200
For the sci-fi-loving, adventure-and-thrill-seeking One Percenter, there’s this $99,500 gift. All of us have seen the likes of Buck Rogers, The Jetsons, or The Rocketeer, and dreamed of owning such a convenient, back-held form of travel. Real jetpacks, however, are a big pain in the ass – they weigh a ton, and getting them into the air requires a lot of rocket fuel. So there’s this alternative, which grants unlimited usage as long as they have a nearby water source to keep drawing from. If that’s making you think twice, just remember: Your friend is in the One Percent, and can easily afford to truck around with a nearby swimming pool going everywhere. And if your One Percent friend is a fossil fuel power magnate, this will have the added bonus of maybe changing his mind on hydro power.

Oswald Haerdtl Candy Dishes
While on the subject of stuff from out of science fiction, here’s a candy dish that looks like a dome-shaped alien spacecraft! These beautiful candy dishes are masterworks of crafsmanship, but more importantly, they’re also light and designed in a way which encourages elegant handling, which will probably be a relief to the butler. There are three different designs which cost $314, $353, and $432 individually. The actually all look the same, but you can trust a rich, high-end designer who says they’re different, right?

Row Rina Fringed Cashmere Cape
You can think of this as a snuggie which you can get away with wearing in public. It’s a blanket, but it’s a blanket that features nice bodyline and clothing cuts like a fringed trim, shawl collar, open front, and it was made from cashmere! In Italy! All elegant things come out of Italy, right? If your One Percent friend can’t appreciate Italian nativity, they can at least appreciate the $3190 price tag. If they can’t, they’re probably not real One Percenters.

Lobmeyer Tulipmania Water Pitcher
This baby has hand-painted tulips on the side and a very special way of holding the water on the inside. Or at least it better have a special way of holding water. At least, for the $428 price tag, it better have a special way of holding water that can’t be deciphered by the photo. Maybe there’s a secret filter? At the least, you should expect it to be able to hold all different kinds of liquids, especially alcoholic liquids.

Be a Better Halloween Candy Giver

Be a Better Halloween Candy Giver

The premise everyone associates with Halloween also seems to be the one everyone is the most prone to screwing up. You can easily liken it to playing soccer or playing piano in that respect: It’s one of those things which you can very easily figure out what to do. Hell, it’s such such a stupidly easy thing to figure out in just doing the act in and of itself that it’s virtually instinctive. The problem is that so many of the people doing it take the skill for granted, and so they end up royally sucking at it, and they see no need to try to improve. For a society that claims to place a ton of value on the well-being and innocence of its children, we sure don’t care very much about giving out decent treats on Halloween. So, in the interest of being a good public servant, I’m now going to give readers a good list of what to give away and what not to give away for Halloween, along with a few quick guidelines on how to give.

1 – It’s okay to expect kids to say “trick or treat” and “thank you.” It’s not okay to expect a “please.” The “trick or treat” is basically a substitute way of saying “May I please have some candy?”

2 – If you must comment on the costumes, it’s a bad idea to make assumptions of exactly what people are dressed as. You can get away with turning it into a question if you really want to, but you don’t want to risk offending some poor kid because said kid looks like a completely different character than who s/he is claiming to be.

3 – There’s no such thing as an honor system on Halloween, especially if you’re giving away good candy. Unless you have an unlimited supply of self-replenishing candy, you can’t afford to leave a large bowl of candy on your doorstep with a note asking kids to take only one or two pieces. If you’re not personally supervising, kids are going to take as much as their palms will allow, and many have no qualms about diving back in for seconds. If you want to monitor how much candy the kids take, you have to personally sit on the stoop yourself, so don’t try to plan anything that will force you to leave a bowl sitting outside.

4 – If there’s a particular kind of candy you don’t like, don’t pawn it off on any kids. Why would you give them anything you don’t personally approve of?

5 – Along those same lines, don’t use Halloween as an excuse to just pawn off leftovers, either.

6 – Unlike a lot of other people who write out these things, I’m willing to personally endorse giving out healthier treats. What I’ll never endorse are pennies or religious literature. Pennies don’t buy anything, and not nearly enough people give them out on any given Halloween night to make them amount to anything; religious literature is not only tasteless, it turns you into a hypocrite as well. If you’re giving out tracts, guess what: You’re still participating in this Pagan holiday you claim to be against.

Good Candy

Mini-candy Bars
These are absolutely gold. All the taste of a full-size candy bar wrapped up in a smaller, more affordable package which can easily be bought and given away in bulk.

Peanut Butter Cups
These are the very best. No matter the size, peanut butter and chocolate is always a winning combination.

Nerds
A definite crowd-pleaser with 80’s aficionados, Nerds are nice little pebbles of candy which usually combine a pair of fruit flavors.

Peppermint Patties
Not outright healthy, but they don’t do nearly as much damage as a lot of the other candies I’m including on this list. The regular-sized York patties only have two fat grams and 140 calories, so if you’re a health nut looking to maximize the best of both worlds, these are by far your best option.

Junior Mints
Bite-sized, more liquidated versions of the above.

Starburst
Another tasty option which is friendlier to your body, Starburst candy really does unleash a gush of flavor into your mouth which you can still taste afterward.

Lifesavers
These are one of the few fruit hard candies that are served in packages which include a handful in a single serving. They’re delicious, juicy, and it’s easy to eat them in spite of their hard texture.

Necco Wafers
An unusual choice for people with more unusual palettes, I always did like these things. They’re simple and can be popped quickly and easily.

Raisinettes
No, Halloween isn’t a good time of year to let your instincts to good health rule you, but it’s easy to get away with it simply by cloaking the raisin in a nice veil of chocolate.

Boston Baked Beans
These fall under the “simple pleasure” category, offering a small shot of sugar covering a regular peanut. Boston Baked Beans are actually a great substitute for peanut M&M’s, except without the chocolate between the candy coating and the peanut. nd while no one should complain about receiving M&M’s of any kind of Halloween, let’s face it: The peanut flavor is dominated by the peanut.

Bad Candy

Candy Corn
Look, I realize these are a sign of the season, but they’re nothing but sickly-sweet sugar packs with a little bit of food dye. They taste nothing like traditional autumn harvest foods, and have nothing notable about them except those dye jobs. They don’t even really look like corn unless you stack them a certain way.

Now and Later
These seem to be ostensibly taffy-based candies. Every time you try to bite down into them, though, they turn out to be hard as diamonds, and then when you finally get them thawed, they take forever to chew and get stuck between your teeth for hours.

Bite-sized Candy Bars
These are nothing but less-satisfying versions of any of the bigger ones. The only reason they exist is because some evil corporation was trying a new way to save money. Plus they’re all wrapped up individually, which makes them a big pain to try to eat in succession.

Bubble Gum
Good for your teeth, so goes the advertisement (the sugar content argues otherwise), but that’s if you take the time to chew it. No one wants to spend ten minutes wearing out the flavor in a piece of gum when there’s chocolate sitting right next to them. Also, a lot of the gum has the texture of concrete as well, and that’s no good for anyone when they try to take that first bite down.

Jawbreakers
These have the same problem as bubble gum. They’re tough to eat, and they take an awful lot of time to finish off. Without trying to place too fine a point on it, the name Jawbreakers isn’t some exaggeration, either; it’s pretty easy to chip or knock out a tooth with one of these things in your mouth.

Tootsie Rolls
These are supposed to be chocolate-flavored taffy, but your standards for good chocolate would have to be awfully low for these things to qualify. They taste more like chocolate imitation than anything, and the texture reeks of harder candy corn than taffy.

Smarties
There are a lot of candies that should just be advertising themselves as nothing but generic, processed sugar pops, but no other candy is as blatant about it as Smarties.

Jolly Ranchers
These things can’t even be categorized. They’re another thing you can’t chew. And by that, I don’t mean you eventually can chew them, like Jawbreakers and hard candy, or that they’re soft candies like Now and Later which just got hard. No, Jolly Ranchers were made to be sucked, and they can be stuck in your mouth for upwards of 20 minutes.

Lemonheads
If your favorite cleaning product was broken down and processed into dried sugar, these are what it would taste like.

Dots
More processed sugar trying to masquerade as fruit flavor, there no no fruit to be had anywhere within. They just baked the sugar, injected some food coloring, and somehow put them at that weird medium where they’re chewy but still very hard to chew to the point where they keep getting stuck in your teeth.